While a number of airlines have completely shut down already, Turkish Airlines has had some of its services still in operation. However, with the continued spread of the virus and the general situation worsening, the airline has shut down all of its regular international and domestic operations.
The latest update
According to the special COVID-19 page set up on the airline’s website, all flights have been suspended as of midnight of Saturday, April 4th. This decision was made “[i]n accordance with the decisions taken by the authorities of the Republic of Turkey and to protect the public health from novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic” the airline states.
In fact, all of Turkish Airlines’ international flights have been suspended since March 28th. This latest change is with regard to its domestic operations. Looking forward, the airline plans to resume its domestic flights in two weeks, on April 20th. On the international side, flights are suspended until May 1st. For those who might speak Turkish and follow the Deputy Chairman’s twitter, the announcement was also made via this public tweet:
Koranavirüs salgını mücadele kapsamında 30 Büyükşehirden havayolu ile de çıkışların 15 gün süreyle geçici durdurulmasından dolayı:
— Bilal EKŞİ (@BilalEksiTHY) April 3, 2020
Of course, the dates set for resuming operations are aspirational goals and the airline must abide by the government’s decisions. The government will hopefully make its decisions based on the advice of health experts, properly assessing the risks and acceptable levels of safety.
Some operations continue with Turkish Airlines
Like many other airlines, even though regularly scheduled passenger operations are suspended the airline has other activities that are ongoing. The main two for Turkish are repatriation flights and cargo operations.
In fact, according to Adalou Agency, on April 2nd Turkish Airlines flew to Kuwait to repatriate its citizens living and working in Kuwait as laborers. This flight had 211 passengers. On this day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey had brought more than 20,000 citizens from 50 countries as part of measures against the virus. He added that some 10,000 others would soon be repatriated.
On the cargo side of things, Turkish Airlines’ cargo division, Turkish Cargo, has planned 155 weekly flights for cargo freighters and 60 weekly flights for passenger aircraft that are being used for cargo operations. All of these flights will depart from Istanbul in April. This is according to information also published by Andalou Agency.
For cargo operations, medicine and medical equipment are the highest priority for the airline during loading and unloading. In terms of storage, these goods are secured in a 3500 square meter specialized cargo facility which subdivides into special storage rooms with four different temperature ranges for ideal conditions.
There are very few airlines that still remain in the air with scheduled operations (Qatar Airways is one example). As we’ve discussed numerous times, the biggest hindrance to air travel is the fact that many countries are only allowing their own citizens to pass through their borders and not to enter the country.
In fact, some governments and civil aviation agencies are even banning transit passengers, which effectively shuts down everything but repatriation flights. It will be interesting to see if Turkish Airlines can indeed resume its operations on the dates it has set for itself.
Do you think Turkish Airlines’ goal to resume flights in the coming weeks (April 20th for domestic, May 1st for international) is too optimistic? Or is it a reasonable estimation? Let us know in the comments.